At last news came from Havre of the end of the preposterous voyage.
Coming straight to you. Send car to meet us
Reading. Local trains beastly. Both fit as elephants. Love to all.
Such was the telegram. I wired to Southampton acquiescence in his proposal. It was far more sensible to come direct to Reading than to make a detour through London. Rooms were got ready. In the one destined for Liosha, we had already stowed the cargo of trunks which the Great Swiftness had delivered in the nick of time. The next day I took the car to Reading and waited for the train.
From the far end of it I saw two familiar figures descend, and a moment afterwards the station resounded with a familiar roar.
“Hullo! hullo! hullo!”
Jaffery, red-bearded, grinning, perhaps a bit mightier, hairier, redder than ever, his great hands uplifted, rushed at me and shook me in his lunatic way, so that train, passengers, porters and Liosha all rocked and reeled before my eyes. He let me go, and, before I could recover, Liosha threw her arms round my neck and kissed me. A porter who picked up my hat restored me to mental equipoise. Then I looked at them, and anything more splendid in humanity than that simple, happy pair of gigantic children I have never seen in my life. I, too, felt the laughter of happiness swell in my heart, for their gladness at the sight of me was so true, so unaffected, and I wrung their hands and laughed aloud foolishly. It is good to be loved, especially when you’ve done nothing particular to deserve it. And in their primitive way these two loved me.
“Isn’t she fit?” roared Jaffery.
“Magnificent,” said I.
She was. The thick tan of exposure to wind and sun gave her a gipsy swarthiness beneath which glowed the rich colour of health. When I had parted from her at Havre there had been just a thread of soft increase in her generous figure; but now all superfluous flesh had hardened down into muscle, and the superb lines proclaimed her splendour. And there seemed to be more authority in her radiant face and a new masterfulness and a quicker intelligence in her brown eyes. I noticed that it was she who first broke away from the clamour of greeting and gave directions as to the transport of their “dunnage.” Jaffery followed her with the tail of his eye; then turned to me with a bass chuckle.
“We’re a sort of Jaff Chayne and Co., according to her, and she thinks she’s managing director. Ho! ho! ho!” He put his arm round my shoulder and suddenly grew serious. “How’s everybody?”
“Flourishing,” said I.
“She knows I’m coming?”
“Yes,” said I.
Liosha joined us, accompanied by a porter, carrying their exiguous baggage. We walked to the exit, without saying much, and settled ourselves in the limousine, my guests in the back seat, I on one of the little chairs facing them. We started.